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All Of Canada Shall Tremble Before New Jersey’s Might

The Devils celebrate their overtime goal
Leah Hennel/Getty Images

Hey, you friggin’ self-serve gas-pumping jerk-offs! How’s it feel knowing that the New Jersey Damn Devils are eating your asses up like it’s Taylor ham on a bagel? “Birthplace of hockey?” Fuhgeddaboudit! Every single one of these Canadian teams looks as soft as salt water taffy when the Metropolitan Division’s most dominant force is on the other end of the ice.

The Devils’ ongoing annexation of Canada began at the start of this month and continued on Tuesday night. After a western road trip that saw them take down the Canucks, the Oilers, and the Flames, they hosted Calgary back in the most magical city in the world, Newark, New Jersey, and kept playing with all the momentum of a PATH train speeding through the Downtown Hudson Tubes. Seeking their seventh win in a row, the Devils got stifled early by not one, but two reversed goal calls (that woulda never flown at the Borgata craps table), but Ryan Graves scored for real on some nice defense-to-offense action in the second period. Dougie Hamilton then took advantage of a five-on-three to make it 2-1, and though the Flames came back to tie the game five minutes into the third, Jersey captain Nico Hischier took the puck on a fast break after a solid defensive stand and buried it behind Calgary goalie Jacob Markstrom for the game-winner.

This shot of the celebration is particularly neat:

By the end of this 3-2 Devils victory, Flames fans were as miserable as if they had just been forced to sit through a screening of Garden State. And because of a bizarre quirk in the NHL’s scheduling, the international onslaught will continue for another two weeks. Loogadis:

That’s 11 games in a row, all pitting New Jersey against Canadian teams. The Devils have taken down Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton, and now they have their sights set on Ottawa, Soon-To-Be-Quebec-City, Montreal, and Toronto, before they enjoy a satisfying Thanksgiving (none of that Monday-in-October crap for them). Only Winnipeg is spared, for the time being, but they’re just livin’ on a prayer until they come down the turnpike on Feb. 19.

Soon, every Canadian town will be installing boardwalks, and every kid will be getting Petr Sýkora jerseys for Christmas. Don’t believe me? I asked New Jersey’s favorite son, David Roth, to back me up:

Until any of those Canadian metropoles get it together to create a proper Italian sandwich (over 1 lb in net weight, with cherry peppers on it, etc.) I don’t really see how they have a chance. The Jersey team will have the (perfectly legal) advantage that only ready access to premium Italian specialty products provides.

For real, this team whips. Even with their usual injury issues knocking out Ondrej Palat (who scored 11 goals for Tampa last playoffs before signing here) and Mackenzie Blackwood (the lesser half of the goalie tandem but still a necessary body), the young core that defines these Devils has been grooving through the early part of this year. The forward gang, mostly assembled through the draft, is peppering goalies with more high-danger chances than anyone else in the league, per Natural Stat Trick. And the defense, mostly put together with free agency and trades, is limiting those same opportunities just as effectively on the other end. Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Jack Hughes are maturing into lovable superstars on the attack, while additions like Graves, Hamilton, and John Marino all bring to the blue line the steady hands of winning-team experience. And while I need to stop somewhere, below the top ice-time guys there are enough fascinating youngsters to fill the American Dream Meadowlands, from 21-year-old former first-rounder Dawson Mercer to the first Calgary game’s overtime hero, Fabian Zetterlund. (One more: Yegor Sharangovich!)

After years and years of underachieving irrelevancy, this really does feel like the Devils’ time to break out. And if they genuinely can tear through the rest of their bilingual opposition in November, it’ll quickly become hard to doubt their chances of winning this division. Wherever you’re from, now is the time to join the Jersey bandwagon.

Also, Bruce Springsteen would kick Neil Young’s ass.

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